Modern European History

We offer an exciting program in modern European history, with a particular focus on Britain, France, Russia and Germany. You can explore the revolutions and wars that transformed the continent and the world, the growth of European empires, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, life behind the Iron Curtain, and the dramatic transformation of Europe since World War 2. For earlier periods of European history, see Medieval and Renaissance history.

Staff Research Areas

Staff working on topics in Modern European History:

Adam Clulow European imperialism, Dutch and English East India Companies, diplomacy
Daniella Doron Modern France, modern Jewish history, history of childhood, gender, and the family
David Garrioch European social and urban history, 1600 – 1850
Charlotte Greenhalgh Society and culture in twentieth-century Britain; the lifecycle
Michael Hau European and German history in the 19th and 20th centuries
Julie Kalman Modern French history, Minorities in Europe, European Imperialism
Paula Michaels Russian, Soviet, and Central Asian history; history of medicine and health; transnational history; women’s and gender history
Seamus O’Hanlon Nineteenth and twentieth-century Australian and British urban, social and cultural history
Susie Protschky European imperialism, especially Dutch; visual culture; history of photography
Noah Shenker The Holocaust; genocide; visual Culture; trauma and memory
Tim Verhoeven Modern French history, Church-State relations, Gender and sexuality

Undergraduate Units Offered

We offer a range of units in Modern European history. See the handbook for a full list of units, but you might particularly want to consider:

Nations at War I: From Napoleon to Gallipoli
Starting with the French Revolution, the unit explores the importance of war for the formation of national identities from the late eighteenth to the Twentieth century. We will look at the American Civil War, the German and Italian wars of unification, and nineteenth-century Imperialism. Finally, students will learn about the role of warfare in Australian society and the transformation of Gallipoli into a founding myth of Australian nationhood. This chronological framework will be supplemented by the exploration of themes that are central to a critical understanding of history. We will ask how war transformed societies and how industrialisation and science changed the nature of war.
Jews in the Modern World
The unit focuses on Jewish society from the eighteenth century to the opening decades of the twentieth century. This period witnessed widespread political, economic and social changes throughout the western world. Jews were thrust from the fringes of European society into its very centre, and with this transformation, they experienced changes in their legal status, religious outlook, and cultural habits. The aim of this unit is to analyse the Jewish encounter with the modern world and gentile society – the impact of that encounter on Jews and Jewish life, as well as the variety of social, ideological and cultural forms in which that encounter was expressed.
Eurovisions: Europe since World War II
In 1956, the European Broadcasting Union inaugurated a song competition to introduce a new vision of Europe in the wake of the Second World War. This was the Eurovision Song Contest. If Europeans sang together, could they ever fight again? This unit takes the Eurovision Song Contest as a starting point, to explore the cultural, social and political history of post-war Europe. It examines the ways Europe came together and rebuilt itself after the ravages of war. Using a variety of disciplinary approaches, we explore questions of identity and memory. How did nations choose to present themselves in the contest? What did it mean to win? Did former enemies vote for one another?
ATS2595 / 3595
The rise and fall of Nazi Germany
The unit examines the course of German history from 1918 to 1945, focusing on the development, policies, course and implications of National Socialism as movement and regime. It explores the development, nature and decline of the Weimar Republic, the intellectual origins and rise of National Socialism, the development, course and nature of National Socialist domination, National Socialist policies of political killing and genocide, support for and opposition to National Socialism, and the impact and consequences of National Socialism for Germany and the world.
The Holocaust
Study the Holocaust and its place in the broader phenomenon of genocide and mass killing in history. Major topics covered include antisemitism, the Nazi state, ghettos and death camps, responses of victims, and the role of perpetrators and bystanders. The unit reflects on the Holocaust as a symbol of the modern condition, its uniqueness and relationship to other forms of violence and genocide. Other themes studied are the reconstruction of Jewish communities in Europe, the memory of the Holocaust and its meaning in the immediate postwar world, and trauma and testimony.
Struggles for justice: The history of rebellion, resistance and revolt
Throughout the ages and across the world, human beings have struggled for justice by rebelling, resisting and revolting against authority. This unit examines this phenomenon from the uprisings of peasants in Europe in the early sixteenth century to the protests of students at Tiananmen Square in 1989, focusing in particular on what has famously been called ‘the weapons of the weak’. We will trace both changes and continuities across time by paying special attention to the causes of rebellion, resistance and revolt, the motives of subordinate individuals and groups, the ways they defined and legitimised their struggle, and the tools they have adopted to wage their battle against authority.
The Holocaust in Film
This unit examines film as a source of historical evidence and enquiry, specifically exploring the historical, cultural, and ethical debates surrounding depictions of the Holocaust in film and other media. It considers the prospects of documenting and representing the Holocaust in a period marked by a decline in the numbers of living historical witnesses and survivors, but a proliferation of films and other media portraying their experiences. Central to this unit are issues pertaining to the limits and possibilities of representing the Holocaust and to the larger challenges and opportunities of utilising works of film and media as sources of history.
History of sexuality 1800 – to the present
What are the historical and cultural components of modern sexuality? This unit charts the changing nature of sexuality in Europe, North America, and Australia over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Studying modern histories of sexuality unsettles many contemporary assumptions about sex. For example, we will examine the introduction of familiar terms such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and sexuality itself in the late nineteenth century. The unit raises important questions about historical sources. How have the legal regulations and social taboos surrounding modern sexuality affected what source material is available to historians of sexuality? How might we use legal, social scientific, medical, popular, artistic, and personal records to understand sexual attitudes and sexual behaviour in the past
Nationality, Ethnicity and Conflict
The unit explores ideas of ‘nation’, ‘nationality’ and ‘ethnicity’ through a variety of theoretical frameworks and with the specific focus the story of the birth and death of the former Yugoslavia. Students will be expected to explore the histories of this case study in order to gain a deeper understanding of some of the more general, complex issues tied up in nationalism, nation building, ethnicity and conflict throughout the modern era.

Postgraduate Units offered (Coursework)

Imagining Europe: Representations and images of a continent
Imagining Europe surveys the ways that Europe has been thought of from classical times to the present. Through literature, painting, architecture, travellers’ tales, cinema and other sources, it traces the development of the idea of Europe as a region defined both geographically and by its culture, distinct from other ‘non-European’ cultures. The unit will trace the idea of multiple Europes: of a culturally defined ‘Eastern Europe’; of regions within Europe, each with its own special character; and after World War II, the images of Eastern and Western Europe as politically distinct entities. The unit will conclude by looking at the impact of the European Union on images of Europe.